better dictionaries

Last Updated: 05/12/20 03:05:41
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Better Dictionaries

Better search and live previews for built-in macOS dictionaries. GitHub release (latest by date)


  • IPA (phonetic) pronunciations:
    Press ⌘↩ to hear the pronunciation.

  • In-Alfred live previews with colors that
    automatically adapt to Alfred’s theme:

  • Reverse search:

  • More relevant search results:
    left: macOS/Alfred built-in search, right: BetterDict

  • If one word has multiple, unrelated meanings with different
    origin, they are showed as diffrent entries
    (in the above example, see “arm” has two entries at the top)

  • Import any compatible dictionary


After importing the workflow,
first type .setup-better-dictionaries into Alfred
and follow the instructions for granting permissions.

Importing a Dictionary

After setup, type .dict-import into Alfred.

Select the dictionary you want to import.

Dictionary-specific Keywords and Hotkeys

After a dictionary is imported, a script filter and a hotkey trigger
is automatically created into the workflow editor.

  • Freshly-installed workflow without any imported dictionaries:

  • Two hotkeys and keyword triggers each automatically added after importing
    two dictionaries. They come pre-labeled with dictionary names:

  • This allows you to assign hotkeys and keywords for specific dictionaries.
    For example, below you can see how I have manually assigned keywords
    thesaurus and defn to the thesaurus and dictionary respectively.
    In addition, I can trigger the dictionary search using ⌃⌥⌘D.

Word Lookup

You can use the hotkeys/keywords created above for directly searhcing
specific dictionaries. That’s the recommended way for dictionaries
that you use frequently.

For the infrequently used dictionaries for which you haven’t assigned
any hotkeys/keywords, follow this:

  1. Type lookup into Alfred. You’ll see a list of all dictionaries
    imported into BetterDict.
  2. Select the dictionary to search, and type the search query.

Notes and Warnings

  • Importing a dictionary could take as much as 30 minutes
    on old machines or if there’s significant CPU activity from other apps.

  • After each mac restart, for the first time when you run
    the workflow, expect a comparatively slower search.
    Subsequent searches should be instant.

  • This workflow takes a LOT of space on disk. Take a look at the comparison:

    # Built-in dictionaries
    Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus:  7 MB
    New Oxford American Dictionary:     36 MB
    # After importing into BetterDict
    Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus: 101 MB (html files)
    New Oxford American Dictionary:     442 MB (html files)
    Combined search index of these two: 730 MB (apart from html)

Known Issues

  • The workflow doeesn’t work if the theme is Alfred Classic.
    If you must use that theme, duplicate that theme and use the
    duplicated one.